Tell us about your professional background.
With a background in computer science, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a variety of sectors, in start-ups, large corporations and government.
In the beginning of my career, I was involved on the technical side of things as a programmer, project manager and technical lead. Later on, I began to work in economic development, using my knowledge and contacts in helping to grow companies within the technology sector.
What I’m doing now, through Springboard, combines my two passions: academic research and business development. Working in the innovation space exposes someone to a lot of interesting projects and people. I consider myself lucky to work with very smart people at both my institutions (Mount Allison University and Université de Moncton). Every day has something new, so I am a happy guy.
That’s great to hear! What pushed you to make the transition from working in the field into academia?
I’ve always had an interest in business and technology. I was drawn to economic development to help businesses grow and employ people in the province. It’s very fulling and the work at the universities is very similar. We work with researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses so it was a natural progression to come here.
And your role in the network is unique because you represent two institutions. How to they differ? How are they the same?
The two institutions have unique strengths. Mount Allison University (Mount A.) is primarily an undergraduate university with an emphasis the quality of the student experience, experiential learning and a renowned arts program. Université de Moncton (UdeM) has more in terms of applied sciences, with a school of engineering.
And the size is different, UdeM is it’s twice the size of Mount A. and has two northern campuses, one in Edmundston and one in Shippagan. Because of that, [UdeM] has a lot of activity on the topics of coastal research in Shippagan and forestry in Edmundston, which gives each campus a bit of a different flavour.
Both institutions can offer tremendous value to the industry in terms of R&D capacity.
What is your day-to-day like?
A large part of what I do is understanding what our researchers do. I spend a lot of time talking with the researchers as well as talking to businesses and industry to identify their needs. Whenever possible, I match those two together to develop an industrial research and development (R&D) project. It involves drinking lots of coffee, attending and setting up lots of meetings and answering the phone.
What are the opportunities you see for industries and academia in New Brunswick?
I think universities are underused in general by businesses and industry. [Industry] knows they are there but they don’t have a natural tendency to use the universities as a natural extension of their own R&D initiatives. I see lots of opportunities for the universities to become more active in the economic development of the province because we can help companies develop new products, processes and ultimately create new markets and employment opportunities.
Do you think industry is becoming more aware of the resources in our network?
Yes, but these things don’t happen by themselves. They need a bit of an energy jolt to get started so you need someone who works on both sides to find those opportunities and talk about them. So, the role that we at Springboard play is crucial in letting [industry] know that these opportunities exist. To use the university, to use the resources that are here. If Springboard didn’t exist, then my position wouldn’t exist, and we’d be missing a lot of opportunities.
How would we be missing those opportunities?
For example, historically, UdeM was primarily a teaching institution rather than doing research, but that’s changing. We are now educating businesses of the benefits of collaborating with our universities but in order to do that you need people—you need boots on the ground to go in and have these conversations. And Springboard supports these types of positions and steps in where the university isn’t necessarily able to. I would not have this position if Springboard wasn’t there and Springboard plays a crucial role in developing the economy of Atlantic Canada.